Schools (Indiscipline)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2003.

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Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 2:30 pm, 12th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what its policy is with regard to indiscipline in schools. (S2O-145)

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

We are working with schools and local authorities to address discipline problems and to implement the recommendations of the discipline task group's report

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Is the minister aware that David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said earlier this year:

"There is still pressure on schools not to use exclusions. That is wrong"?

In light of that statement, would the minister not agree that Scotland's teachers deserve to be more strongly supported?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I wish to make it clear that we take discipline problems in schools extremely seriously. That is in stark contrast with the time when Lord James Douglas-Hamilton was himself an education minister in the Scottish Office. The complacency on the Tory benches—

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

The Tories refused to collect the statistics that would have revealed the problem. We are not taking that line. We are prepared to collect statistics about difficult situations in schools precisely to allow us to take the action that the Tories failed to take when they were in government.

To deal with Lord James's specific point, I have made it clear to him—not least in the chamber, a week ago—that we will never second-guess a head teacher about the difficult decisions that they have to take in individual discipline situations in schools.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Does the minister agree that there are some excellent examples of alternatives to excluding disruptive pupils, such as the Schoolhouse at Dumfries High School, to which I referred during the debate on young people last week? Will he consider ways in which such excellent projects can continue once funding for fixed-term alternatives to exclusion ceases?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Elaine Murray makes a very good point, which picks up on the point that I was making to Lord James Douglas-Hamilton. One of the reasons why we collect data on difficult situations in schools is so that we can understand the problems more fully and then take the necessary action. The pupil support bases, behavioural support teachers, learning support teachers and the various actions that are now being taken to address problems in schools, to which Elaine Murray has alluded, are very much making an impact on individual schools and pupils, and we want them to be rolled out across Scotland to ensure that every school is following the best practice that exists.